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Hamilton Hamilton (1847-1928), Fletchers Furnace, 1876; oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 52 1/2 inches; Collection of the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society

Hamilton Hamilton (1847-1928), Fletchers Furnace, 1876; oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 52 1/2 inches; Collection of the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society

Fletcher Furnace Company produced pig iron, an intermediate product in the smelting of iron ore, from 1863 until 1885. This painting which might bring to mind the fires of an industrial disaster actually depicts the facility when it was likely at the height of its production.

The flames of industry depicted in the painting evoke the flames of war that wrought devastation on both sides of the border in the War of 1812.  On December 30, 1813, the village of Buffalo was burned to the ground by British attackers.  All but four buildings were lost.  This was the culmination of a reprisal campaign – a response to the American destruction of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) three weeks earlier.